BARCELONA’S EYE-WATERING TICKET PRICES AND OTHER NOTES
Manchester City are still on course for a four-trophy grand slam this season after advancing to the F.A. Cup semi-finals, where they will meet Watford. However after Sergio Aguero netted a late winner to complete a 3-2 comeback at Swansea City, TV replays showed the Argentine had clearly been offside. There were questions too surrounding City’s penalty award too.
VAR was not available at the Liberty Stadium although was being employed at the other three quarter-finals. Last season when Swansea were Premier League they also used it. The jury is still out on VAR, its obvious benefits nullified in many eyes by the time it takes to reach a decision. A half-baked introduction does not help its cause either.
The F.A. should have insisted all the quarter-finals had VAR or none at all.
Barcelona v Manchester United is the most attractive of the last eight ties in the Champions League but travelling fans will have to pay £102 for the privilege of watching it live in the away ground. While Man Utd are subsidizing their followers in Catalonia by £27 to make up the difference to what they are charging Barca fans, is this the first time UCL tickets have reached three figures for this stage of the competition? As many fans protest, ‘twenty is plenty’ but one hundred is surely too much.
* For some reason everyone was cooing over Lionel Messi’s hat-trick away to Real Betis on Sunday and it is true his third goal was so sublime the home fans applauded his magical feet. Yet since he has already netted half a century of three-goal matches for the blaugrana, most against the whipping-boys who make up La Primera, I could not get too excited.
That said we should feel Qiuqiu blessed one of the all-time greats is still in fantastic form at 31, having scored 39 goals in 37 outings this season already.
* England’s Euro 2020 campaign begins tonight with a home tie against the Czech Republic. While the media are fussing unnecessarily over an adolescent tweet from Declan Rice, set to pin himself to the Three Lions after three friendly appearances for Eire, what is surely more pertinent is that Gareth Southgate has picked his most youth-centric squad yet.
His 21-man selection includes two 18 year-olds, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Jadon Sancho, two uncapped players (Hudson-Odoi and Rice), two with one cap (James Ward-Prowse and Callum Wilson) and one with two (James Tarkowski).
As the World Cup showed, this is a new era for England where a young player can replace an established one at any moment. Southgate has forged a production line from England’s youth teams and changed the formula, hopefully for good.
* England’s women’s football is on the up and up too. The national team won the She Believes Cup earlier this year in the USA and are one of the favourites heading into this summer’s World Cup in France. The FA Women’s Super League has just got a boost of £10 million in sponsorship as part of the association’s plan to double growth and participation by 2021.
Nine countries are in the race to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup: Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and most intriguingly of all, a joint bid from the two Koreas.
On darker notes, a coach of PSG fans travelling to watch their side play Chelsea this week was stopped and drugs and weapons confiscated. Damage was done to Kingsmeadow Stadium and trains by fans who had been banned from attending PSG’s men’s fixtures.
Meanwhile, Sheffield United cancelled the contract of player Sophie Jones who was recorded making monkey noises to another player. Those are sides of the men’s game the women’s one can certainly do without as it advances.